Stratford Start The Season Well at Wallingford and Runcorn

Starting their full head season for the first time, three J14 squads made their debut at Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, rowing the short course. Thanks to some brilliant intersquad camaraderie, three J15 athletes stepped up as coxswains, enabling all twelve J14 athletes to compete on the day. Martha Baines coxed the girls’ quad (Linforth, Ntoukaki, Sime, Appleton) and came fourth against well drilled crews from Headington School, beating one of the Headington quads on the way from Oxford Brookes to Oxford University boat houses. Maeve Dunn coxed the boys’ quad of Rowan/Shaw/Appleton/Jones and Sophie Franklin coxed Happel/Richter/ Greenwood/Rutter, with the latter taking the win for Stratford in a time of eight minutes and twenty eight seconds. J14 Coach Hugo Happel said: “A really good day for J14’s, showing good technique on this fabulous stretch of water. Great experience gained combined with plenty of laughs. Well done to all athletes!”

The J15 squad’s new rowing season also began last weekend with the opening event at Wallingford. A bumper entry saw Stratford’s juniors travel to Wallingford for the 2023 edition of Wallingford Long Distance Sculls. First out for the J15 squad was the women’s coxed quadruple scull of Sophie Franklin, Maeve Dunn, Martha Baines, Millie Smith and Martha Cooke (coxswain).  The crew stormed over the 4000m course to come within touching distance of Henley Rowing Club’s two crews finishing third by just 2.1 seconds over the nineteen minute race. Next to go, in the 1800m short course event, were the J15 double scull crews of Bryony Francis/Poppy Warren and Tessa Parkin/Josephine Cooper. The two crews duelled over the full course to achieve second and third ranking for the Club with the Francis/Warren combination taking the second place spot after battling their way through the traffic. Last to go for the J15 squad were the single scullers, Martha Cooke and Isla Dunn. Always a gladiatorial competition, Dunn and Cooke fought it out on the Thames to record creditable fourth and sixth places.

One of the most anticipated events in the rowing calendar for Stratford junior squads is the Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, a challenging and prestigious race that draws many competitors from various clubs and schools in the region. The event takes place annually in Wallingford, a historic town in Oxfordshire and the head race has a rich tradition that goes back to 1974. The original course was a gruelling 6,000 metres upstream from Moulsford Boathouse to Wallingford Marina but it has since been shortened to 4,000 metres starting from Cholsey Ferry.

The race consists of two long divisions and one shorter one with different categories of boats and rowers. The Wallingford Long Distance Sculls is a test of endurance, skill and teamwork and showcases some of the best talent in the sport.

The Junior 16 Women’s coxless quad consisting of Tessa Parkin, Sophie Evans, Alice Jones and Poppy Baines were the first down the course. They faced tough competition from local rivals such as Wallingford, Henley and Headington but they rowed with determination and skill. They finished in fifth place which is a commendable result considering that Tessa Parkin, a junior 15 athlete, stepped in at the last minute due to illness: Tessa went on to compete in her own event after a short break.

Another impressive result came from the double sculls pair of Theo Richter and James Albrighton who finished fifth overall. They competed against strong crews from St Pauls School, Leander, Wallingford and Lea and showed great speed and technique.

Finally, Alexandra Francis represented the J16’s in the single sculls event, which had thirty four entries. She had to endure a long wait on the water due to some issues on the course but she did not let that affect her performance: she rowed with power and stamina and finished sixth overall.

The first J17 crew to take to the water were Lucy Sartain, Jess Long, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton in their coxless quad. They sculled with great skill and were faster than the crew in front over the second half of the race finishing fourth which was an excellent result at such a high profile event.

Charles Happel entered the Open Junior 18 single scull event pitting his skills against forty four other scullers from some of the top rowing clubs in the country. Setting off hard on the first half of the course he was in nineteenth place at the halfway point. Charles put in a very strong final kilometre to finish in a highly creditable sixteenth place.

Molly Vondrak, Ez Elfwood, Eloise Cooper and Nancy Davis all entered the Junior 17 single sculls event finishing seventh, twenty sixth, twenty seventh and thirtieth respectively. Molly’s performance was particularly impressive.

Uche Nwachukwa entered in the Women’s single scull event, a tall order for a junior athlete, finishing twenty fourth out of thirty competitors. She then sculled in a double with Maddie Hall in the afternoon division coming tenth out of sixteen competitors. Also racing in the same event Jess Long and Lucy Sartain came thirteenth, Harriet Froom and Megan Rowan came eleventh and Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton finished strongly in eight place.

Given the favourable conditions, Suzie Radley and Amanda Bowden representing Stratford’s Masters’ Women were excited to be racing again in the first head race of the season. Following a convincing start rate set by stroke, Suzie, accompanied by fantastic steering through the bends overtaking several crews in the process, the race was going very well! The boat speed placing the crew second behind a younger age category. However, sadly there then followed a steering error costing the crew thirty seconds which knocked the double out of the competition on this occasion. Commenting, Suzie Radley said, “This race was to be a warm up for the Pairs’ Head of the River in London next weekend. The race has provided much needed feedback, with some key points to work on to improve the competitive edge. This has certainly sparked a fire for next weekend!”

Also sculling at Wallingford were Paul Collins and Mike Adkins who were the only entry in Masters’ H double category and they had a good row. Steered by Paul, they managed to restrict their bank contact on the way to the start! For a first event together, they were well satisfied with the result managing to hold off a good Guildford double.

Also sculling on Saturday, this time at the Runcorn Autumn Head, was Stratford’s adaptive squad. The Runcorn Head of the River attracts clubs from the North West and Midlands to compete on the river Weaver. Andy Morris represented Stratford’s Adaptive Squad in a division which included Runcorn’s Sean Bailey who had recorded a personal best of 18:20 for the course.

This was Andy’s first race without floats and in a boat borrowed from Runcorn. The conditions were fine for the race over a 3650m course which was a series of bends with 200m straights in between. Commenting, Andy said, “I was pleased with my row and the course tested my steering skills. This was my first head in a single without floats and it went well”. Andy’s winning time was eighteen minutes and thirteen seconds.

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online  https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-boat-club-make-strong-start-to-new-season-at-wallingford-and-runcorn and back sports page https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/10/06&pages=32: see also Stratford Herald page forty five

For great pictures of Wallingford, see Kathy Baines’ excellent selection https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AKg7Ldg9UzZfSuU&id=8E50DAC120123B06%21101272&cid=8E50DAC120123B06

Stratford Triumphs on the River, Beach and in Munich!

After the excitement of National Junior Championships, the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior rowing summer calendar turned to Henley Town & Visitors Regatta for the next races. Held over 800m on the famed Henley Reach, the event always provides great racing and moreover a great relaxed atmosphere. First to go from the J14 squad was the women’s coxed quadruple scull of Sophie Franklin, Becca Smith, Martha Baines, Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren (coxswain). Competing in the J15 category, the crew made easy meat of Wallingford Rowing Club in the first round. However not to be outdone, the hunter became the hunted in the final and a second Wallingford Rowing Club crew, recent National Junior Championship finalists, took the win in the final by just four lengths over the Stratford girls.

The racing continued furiously with the WJ14 single sculls next to boat. Sophie Franklin and Millie Smith represented Stratford with great sculling in a tough headwind, both placed second in their respective semifinals and narrowly missing out on a place in the final. Challenging conditions continued for the WJ14 double sculls event where three Stratford crews competed. Bryony Francis and Martha Cooke powered their way past a quality Wallingford Rowing Club double in the semifinal whilst Martha Baines and Becca Smith booked their place in the final showing Falcon Rowing Club nothing but wake. Meanwhile in the third semifinal, Isla Dunn and Poppy Warren narrowly missed out to a quality Henley Rowing Club double. With the regatta drawing to a close, the final wasn’t quite an all Stratford affair and the Henley Rowing Club crew took full home advantage securing the win with Stratford nipping at their heels until the finish line.

Stratford’s Junior 15’s had four events to participate in, starting with Theo Richter and Ollie Rowlands in the Junior 15 double sculls. They faced tough competition from Falcon and Henley who took an early lead and kept it until the end. Richter and Rowlands did their best but could not catch up on the short course. Sadly, they did not qualify for the final.

Stratford’s J15 girls had more success in the single sculls event with Sophie Evans, Alexandra Francis, Poppy Baines and Meg Nuttall representing Stratford Boat Club. Evans raced against City of Oxford and Wallingford and, despite being more used to racing in bigger boats, she performed well and finished third. Francis and Baines competed in the second heat against Shiplake with Francis advancing to the final finishing first with Baines finishing second in their heat. Nuttall who usually coxes, tried her hand at sculling in the third heat but lost to the eventual winner of the event. In the final, Francis fought hard against Wallingford but lost by a narrow margin.

The next event was the J15 singles where Seth Vondrak faced Henley in a straight final. The two boys were evenly matched in the first part of the race but Vondrak used his experience from the British Rowing’s recent Junior National Championships to pull ahead in the middle section. He maintained his lead and won by four lengths. Finally In the double sculls event for girls, Lily Warren and Alice Jones competed for the first time as a crew. They faced Wallingford and Shiplake in their heat who were both strong contenders. Wallingford took an early lead and kept it until the end, winning the overall event. Stratford and Shiplake fought for second place but Warren and Jones overtook them at the halfway point and secured their position, finishing second.

Stratford’s J16 squad entered three crews, enjoying an early success in the double sculls when Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker executed their race plan perfectly in a straight final against a Wallingford crew. The boys went off hard to open an impressive lead by halfway and maintained their composure with a two boat length advantage as they crossed the line. Next to compete was Elliot Baird in the J16 single sculls: Elliot found himself in a very competitive heat with scullers from Wallingford and Henley. A strong start saw Elliot well in touch during the early part of the race before eventually crossing the line a couple of lengths behind the other two crews in a closely fought finish. Finally, the WJ16 coxless quad of Jessica Long, Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan and Harriet Froom took to the water rowing up an age category against a composite WJ18 crew from Staines and Mundener from Germany. Despite a good start and clean row from the Stratford athletes, the age difference told with the very accomplished WJ18 opposition taking the win in blustery conditions.

From Stratford’s J17 squad, Charles Happel stepped up to do battle in the Senior single sculls event.  Despite remaining in contact throughout, it was not to be Charles’ day as his opponent from Upper Thames Rowing Club took full benefit of a home crowd and crossed the line first.

The weekend also saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club masters and adaptive rowers competing against athletes from far and wide with rowers in Germany in the European Club Championships on the south coast of England at the British Offshore Rowing Championships and also at Henley on Thames for the Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.

The British Offshore Rowing Championships took place off Exmouth and attracted its largest entry with rowers from the Czech Republic, France and Germany taking part in racing over two days.

Racing commenced on Friday with Stratford rowers Andrew Morris and Tom Doherty joined by their fellow rowers Ali Martineau and Kath Coleman-Jones from the Coastal Barbarians Club racing in the mixed ability quads sculls over a 4 km course. Up against crews from Fishguard, Llandaff and Mayflower, it was going to be a closely contested race with Mayflower with two of their senior men and Sophie Harris former GB Paralympic squad member.

A good start saw Stratford/Barbarians gain a half length lead which they held to the buoy turn out to sea. Over the next two kilometres, Mayflower edged back and both crews were racing for the buoy side by side in the choppy sea conditions. At the three kilometre buoy turn, Mayflower started to edge ahead by a length but drifted off course allowing Stratford/Barbarians to close and edge ahead and gain a short lead which they held to the finish. Said Tom Doherty, crew captain, “This was Stratford’s Andrew Morris’s first experience at sea rowing and he put in an incredible performance to win a gold medal. It also shows there are no limits to what adaptive athletes can achieve.”

Stratford were not finished with Tom Doherty back on the water half an hour later for the senior Men’s 6km Double Sculls final with Robin Steward from the Mayflower Club. In a very competitive field of six crews, a good start saw the double edge into second place behind Jersey with Eastbourne neck and neck. A long side by side race ensued with Eastbourne finally pulling away at the three kilometre point. Jersey, who had been leading, began to tire and were pushed into second place as Stratford/Mayflower attempted to close on second and hold off a fast finishing Ardingly crews behind. Jersey rallied enough to hold onto second place with Stratford/Mayflower finishing in third place for the bronze medal.

Meanwhile, Stratford’s Women’s Masters were competing in the Euro Master Regatta in Munich. Stratford’s Masters Women won five gold medals and secured several second and third positions of the thirteen events entered. The races were all extremely tight with often just a second between the top three places.

Particular congratulations to Suzie Radley, who won three of the gold medals in women’s VIII; Amanda Bowden, winning a gold medal in women’s VIII; Heather Hayton, winning gold in a Mixed double and Kjersti Rogneflaten Woolley who represented Stratford across several boat classes at times combining with other clubs. All the events saw hard racing from everybody involved across the four days.

Commenting, Amanda Bowden, Stratford crew member, said, “Lining up on a start to hear the starter announce ‘Great Britain’ alongside the other international competitors was totally thrilling! It was hugely inspiring to race masters’ athletes at this level, competing against other nations and great fun catching up with previous rowing friends and making new ones! Many thanks to all our supporters, with a special mention to Dan Simkins for boat support and David Bowden for the driving to and from Munich!”

For media mentions, see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/08/04&pages=24

For more great pictures of Henley Town & Visitors regatta, see Kathy Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j7QT6aOurkcIfval3A?e=NE1B7N

Peterborough, Ironbridge & Nottingham in One Weekend!

Saturday saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 squad in action at Peterborough Junior Championships on the purpose-built Cambridgeshire rowing lake. The event drew in top schools and clubs from the junior rowing scene to do battle on the 1000m four lane course. First to go in the heats were the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Martha Cooke, Millie Smith, Josephine Cooper, Isla Dunn and Maeve Dunn (coxswain) with a solid fifth place of the twenty four crews entered.  Going forward to the B Final, the girls had a ding dong battle with Cambridge’s Rob Roy Boat Club to finish second by the slimmest of margins.

Next to go were the WJ14 double sculls of Sophie Franklin and Becca Smith along with Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren going to work in the heats to record fourth and fifth place respectively of twenty two entrants. In their finals the Francis/Warren combination dominated their B Final and romped over the line in first place whilst the Franklin/Smith crew chased Nottingham and Union down the course to maintain their fourth place overall ranking. In the last of the J14 events, Stratford’s single scullers took to the course as the afternoon heat continued to bake the spectators. In the heats Stratford was represented by Tessa Parkin, Martha Baines and Maeve Dunn who recorded eighth, fifth and fourth respectively of the thirty three scullers racing. In the B Final, Tessa and Martha brought their best to finish fourth and second against stiff competition.  Meanwhile, in the A Final, Maeve Dunn dug deep and tore down the lake to better her time trial ranking and earn herself a richly deserved silver medal against quality competition in the process.

Stratford’s Junior 15 squad also competed at the Peterborough Junior Championships. The competition was intense, with crews from Leeds, Lincoln, Oxford, Sussex, and London. There were one hundred and fifty two races, with four-lane racing and initial time trials. The fastest twelve crews were seeded into the ABC finals, which took place throughout the day.

In the double sculls event for the Junior 15’s, Theo Richter and Ollie Rowlands represented their squad and finished third in the C final. Xavier Sissins-Rofey and Seth Vondrak competed in the time trials for the same event and finished fourth in the B final. Vondrak and Sissins-Rofey also competed in the single sculls event and finished fourth in their respective division B finals. Lucy Yang and Alice Jones raced in the Junior Women’s 15 single sculls event. Yang did not qualify for the finals due to being overwhelmed by her first singles event more to come in future events but Jones finished third in the C final.

In the double sculls event for the girls, Alexandra Francis and Poppy Baines narrowly missed out on the A final but won their B final. Lily Warren and Sophie Evans finished fourth in their B final. Francis also competed in the single sculls event and won a bronze medal in the A final, while Baines placed second in the B final.

Commenting, Colin Bell J15 Coach said, “Overall, the event provided valuable learning experiences for Francis, Baines, and Vondrak, who will apply what they learned in the upcoming British Junior Championships.”

Sunday saw the trials for the U16 GB vs France match take place at the National Watersports’ Centre in Nottingham. ‘V’ Vondrak and Scarlett Richardson entered in the double sculls event in their first opportunity to compete for a GB Rowing badge. With the forecast for thunderstorms in the afternoon, the side by side finals were cut from the programme meaning selection would be based on performance in the time trials only. The Stratford girls sculled well in the early heat of the day, missing out on a top five finish by just 0.5 seconds but demonstrating they are in the mix with the most competitive crews in the country.

Meanwhile, Jake Blatcher, competing in the open single sculls event, was the only Stratford Boat Club representative at Ironbridge Regatta on Saturday. In the first round he came up against a local rival from Evesham. Jake overcame his opponent, in a hard fought race, by a length and a half. His semi-final against a young sculler from Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club proved a more straightforward affair. Pulling away consistently, he won easily.

This win set up Jake for a final against a very good sculler from Falcon Rowing Club (Oxford). The tall rower from Falcon set up an early lead. In the last few hundred metres, Jake’s improved technique started to tell and he began to close quickly on his rival. Unfortunately, he was not able to quite catch up before the finish line. Mark Dewdney, Head Adaptive Coach commented, “This was another sign of progress in an encouraging season. I’m pleased with the performance”.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-boat-club-juniors-take-on-peterborough-junior-championships and Stratford Herald page fifty two

For more great pictures of Peterborough Junior Championships, please see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ excellent selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j69o2xUB_tV0JoX2OQ?e=1HikGG

Stratford & Henley: Success All Round!

The weather couldn’t have been better for the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club regatta with only a little rain but great participation with local crews and further afield from Evesham Rowing Club, Magdalen College School Boat Club, King’s School Worcester Boat Club, Royal Grammar School Worcester Boat Club, Hereford Boat Club, Ross Rowing Club, Clifton College Boat Club, King Edward V1 as well as major entries from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club itself. The regatta this year had three divisions and one hundred and sixty three separate races starting at promptly at 08.30 and running all day through until a close at 17.30hrs! Running a regatta to time is no mean feat and is a tribute to the race organisers!

This year the Club was very heartened again by the huge turn out from local and distant clubs and the interest from the public. A massive thanks to all our hard working Stratford Boat Club members, visiting crews, umpires and officials and especially the public for supporting the event. The Club was especially honoured to have Stratford upon Avon Town Council Mayor Kate Rolfe attend the regatta and walk the course with Stratford Boat Club President, Paul Stanton.

Dan Warren, Regatta Secretary commented, “It was a long day’s racing: our tea tent was extremely busy dispensing dozens of cakes and snacks. What a magnificent day topped by great racing! We ran the regatta under very tight protocols. We were especially grateful for the help and tolerance of those operators who work and make their living on the river.”

Saturday proved to be another day of rowing success, fun times and great learning for the Stratford Boat Club’s J13 squad. Starting off with Division One, in their straight final against Hereford Rowing, the Open J13 4x+ of Rory Rowan, Seb Happel, Ed Appleton and James Greenwood, expertly coxed by Orla Linforth, rowed to a comfortable win despite catching a crab at the start.

In Division Two, the WJ13 2x of Naomi Sime & Maria Ntoukaki had a steering problem on the tricky course, which caught many an athlete out on the day and they capsized. In Division Three, making their Women’s J13 single scull event debut, Orla Linforth and Erin Appleton put on a determined performance but lost out over the 500m course to powerful scullers from Evesham and Kings School Worcester.

Also, making their debut in the Open J13 single sculls were Rory Jones, Will Shaw, Euan Richter and Noah Rutter who had eventful heats, beating Worcester Rowing Club along the way. In the all Stratford final, Shaw beat Rutter by three lengths. Said Hugo Happel, J13 Coach, “The J13 glass pot winners were very grateful to Club President Paul Stanton for his kind and gracious words at the award ceremony. Athletes, parents and coach are immensely grateful to all the volunteers who made the day a huge success.”

Saturday’s Junior Sprint Regatta was the 500m course following the Avon through the town from Holy Trinity Church through to the finish line between the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, The Tramway Bridge and the Club’s grounds.

Stratford’s J14 squad were once again out in force to take on the visiting crews on their home water. First to go were the WJ14 single sculls of Tessa Parkin, Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren. Francis harried a confident Hereford sculler down the course in a thrilling race which resulted in a disqualification for Hereford as they strayed into Stratford’s racing lane. Next up Tessa Parkin raced hard against local rivals Evesham Rowing Club with Evesham taking the win by a length. Poppy Warren delivered the performance of her rowing career to seize a win in the semi-final against her squad mate and then produced a nail biting row in the final to beat her opposition by half a length only to be disqualified after straying from her competitor’s racing lane.

In the WJ14 double sculls event, Stratford’s Becca Smith and Isla Dunn sculled confidently but were overcome by Evesham in the semi-final. On the other side of the draw, it was a different story as Josephine Cooper and Martha Baines took an easy win in their semi-final and went on to collect victory in the final with a gutsy row.

In the WJ14 coxed quadruple sculls event, the Stratford crew of Sophie Franklin, Millie Smith, Maeve Dunn, Martha Cook and Bryony Francis (coxswain) put forward a strong campaign with easy wins in the early rounds. A similarly commanding performance saw them take the win in the final against Evesham.

Saturday provided the opportunity for the J16 squad to take on local clubs and schools at Stratford Junior Sprint Regatta. First down the course was the J16 single of Will Dalrymple Baker who gained a spot in the final after winning his heats and semi finals. He was followed by Jamie Wilcock who faced tough competition from Evesham and narrowly missed out on a place in the final . Dalrymple-Baker had a fast start in the final but despite an exciting and close race, he too lost out to Evesham by just a foot.

Next down were the WJ16 single sculls. Nancy Davis rowed a tidy race and gained on her competition as she rounded the ferry bend but it wasn’t enough to win the heat. Eloise Cooper in the Band 2 final put in an excellent display of sculling and easily beat her competition, earning a well deserved and long overdue winners pot.

After a later start than expected, the first WJ16 2x of Lucy Sartain and Megan Rowan won their quarter final and steered a good course in the semi final, losing out on a place in the final by a small margin. The second double of Jess Long and Harriet Froome faced stiff competition from Evesham in their semi final who were just too strong for the Stratford girls, securing the remaining final place.

Charles Happel and Toby Sartain were the sole representatives of the J17/18 squad at this years home regatta. In the morning they raced together in the J18 doubles event, and after a convincing win in the semi-final they then took on a strong crew from Evesham in the final. Despite a fast start and a strong row, they fell just short, with the difference being only one boat length at the finish line. Happel then took on the course again in the afternoon, racing a straight final in the J18 singles event. Facing strong competition again, this time from Hereford Rowing Club, he sculled superbly and took home the win, rounding out an enjoyable day for the squad.

Henley Women’s Regatta which is one of the most prestigious events of the year run over the famous Henley course two weeks before Henley Royal and attracting crews from all over the UK and many from abroad the competition is of the highest caliber, saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club J17 squad entered with Uche Nwachukwa, Maddy Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and cox Imogen Hill in the Groton School Challenge Cup for Junior Coxed Fours. The crew made a good start in their time trial qualifying in the top sixteen crews to progress to the knock out stage of the competition.

Sitting at the start of your first side by side race on the narrow Henley course as a junior rower is a thrilling moment but unfortunately the our girls were drawn against hot favourites Saint Edward’s School Oxford who had won The National Schools’ Regatta in May. Stratford went out hard and hung on to Teddies through the first third of the race but by the half way point, Teddies had established clear water between the two crews which despite Stratford’s best efforts, Saint Edwards maintained to the finish.

Commenting, J17 Coach Sam Hill said, “The girls put in a superb performance in a fast heat. They are still a young crew and will have gained a lot from the experience: I have no doubt they will progress further next year.”

On Friday the J16 Quad of Ez Elfwood (Stroke), ‘V’ Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton (Bow) knocked out a couple of GCSE exams before also making the journey to Henley Women’s Regatta to compete in the time trial for the hotly contested Nina Padwick Trophy. First down the 1400m course in a field of twenty three of the best crews in the country, the girls kept their composure and didn’t let the occasion put them off their stride. With only the top eight finishers proceeding to the knock out stages, it was always going to be a big ask and in the end they finished a very respectful sixteenth place having enjoyed their first Henley Women’s experience.

Saturday’s busy regatta will be followed by the Club’s Fun Regatta on Saturday 08 July where the Club give crews from local companies, clubs and organisations three hours training, a boat and an experienced cox.

Paul Stanton, Stratford Boat Club’s President said, “We were blessed with good weather for the regatta and there were crowds watching the racing adding much to Stratford’s atmosphere and vitality: we were glad to showcase our sport and demonstrate our part in the success of our town! Again, we appreciate the tolerance and help from the other river users and colleagues.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald centre spread pages twenty four and twenty five and Stratford Observer  https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-host-successful-summer-regatta

For pictures of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Junior Sprint Regatta 2023, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ great selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j64qw-k_D7Glyp4TvQ?e=mfYPA8

Glorious Weekend for Stratford’s Juniors!

The Bank Holiday Weekend saw the 2023 edition of the UK’s premier rowing event for junior athletes. Held on the Olympic Lake at Eton Dorney, the National Schools’ Regatta attracts the highest quality crews from schools and clubs from across the country.  Day One of the three day regatta saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 and J15 crews competing over a 1000m distance. First to go were the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull crew of Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Martha Baines, Sophie Franklin and Josephine Cooper (coxswain) who stormed the time trial to record the sixth fastest time of the fifty three crews entered. Later in the day the girls lined up in the A Final to come home sixth after a nip and tuck race with Molesey Boat Club. Next to go was the WJ15 coxed quadruple scull crew of Alice Jones, Alexandra Francis, Poppy Baines, Sophie Evans and Lucy Yang (coxswain) who delivered a solid time trial performance to earn themselves a place in the C Final. The girls delivered another great row to come out fourth in their final. Last down the 1000m course was the OpJ15 coxed quadruple scull crew of Ollie Rowlands, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Roffey, Lily Warren and Meg Nuttall (coxswain). The crew scored the twenty eighth fastest time against tough opposition.

 The final day saw of National Schools ‘Regatta saw Stratford Boat Club enter both the first and second WJ16 quad events. These were run as separate events for schools and clubs fortunate enough to have strength in depth to enter two competitive boats in the same category. The first quad crew with Esme Elfwood at stroke, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton at bow came through the time trial to secure a place in the B final eventually finishing in twelfth position after a close contest all the way to the line against a crew from Yarm School in North Yorkshire. The second quad crew with Jessica Long at stroke, Lucy Sartain, Nancy Davis and Harriet Froom in the bow seat qualified third fastest in their time trial and rose to the occasion in their A final to produce a clean row and maintain third place, securing a bronze medal for Stratford. In doing so they recorded a very impressive time to finish within five seconds of the boat in silver medal position and ensure that Stratford Boat Club returned home with two WJ16 quads in the fastest fifteen boats at this premier national event.

On Saturday, Stratford entered Junior 17 Uchenna Nwachukwu in the Championship single scull event. Finishing thirty fifth out of forty nine in the time trial, Uche went on to the repechage where she won a place in the E final, but unfortunately had to pull out with a shoulder injury.

The Women’s Junior 17 coxed 4 of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and cox Imogen Hill entered the Championship event coming fourth out of twenty two in the time trial. They stuck to the race plan in their semi final finishing second to gain a favourable lane for the eight lane A final. Stratford made an excellent start holding third place at the 500 metre marker, by 1500m Shrewsbury School had pulled out one length when Stratford increased the pressure. By 250m to go, Stratford had reduced the deficit to half a length, then they went up another gear increasing the rate to draw level with Shrewsbury. In the last few strokes, the crews swapped the lead with each stroke, but Shrewsbury took the Bronze medal by the tightest of margins.

J17/18 Coach Sam Hill said, “Our target was to reach the A final at the National Schools’ Regatta this year, so to finish within half a second of a medal is a great achievement. We will be back next year!”

The J18 squad was represented on Sunday by Lucy Browne and Freya Watts in the Women’s Championship Double Sculls event. A lively time trial and placing of twenty second saw the duo qualify for the C final in the early afternoon. Despite the sunshine and moderate temperature, a strong northerly crosswind created harsh conditions for the double’s last ever national event as juniors. Nevertheless, Browne and Watts powered through the 2km course, with support from coach Abi Terry cycling alongside, to secure a strong sixth place, losing to the fifth placed crew by only a second.

Abi Terry, J17/18 Coach added “It was a great way for Lucy and Freya to finish their last National Schools Regatta, moving up on where they had placed in the time trial.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-juniors-win-bronze-at-national-schools-regatta and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/06/02&pages=024

Stratford’s Juniors Rack Up Points For West Midlands

The Stratford upon Avon Boat Club regatta season started in style with five crews selected to represent West Midlands at the Junior Inter Regional Regatta. The opening national level regatta of the season as the twelve UK regional teams competed for the much coveted Victor Ludorum prize.  First down the 1500m course was the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Tessa Parkin and Poppy Warren (coxswain). They dominated their heat, leading from the front for the full race crossing the line twelve seconds ahead of a tidy North Western crew. This earned them a place in the A Final where once again the crew went out hard, dicing for third place at the halfway marker and eventually being placed sixth and collecting valuable points for the West Midlands squad

Theo Richter, Ollie Rowlands, Seth Vondrak, James Albrighton and cox Meg Nuttall were selected to represent the West Midlands in the junior 15 coxed quad event. Despite an early morning chill, the sun broke through the overcast skies resulting in calm conditions at the National Water sports Centre in Nottingham. In typical fashion for the venue the competitors soon found themselves facing strong headwinds, challenging the most experienced coxes

The boys were drawn in the second heat facing opposition from Yorkshire, North West, East Midlands, Northern, West and Wales Wiltshire, Avon, Gloucester and Somerset. Despite a strong start, the boys race did not progress as planned which resulted in them finishing in fifth place in their heat progressing to the B final. Undeterred, the boys and Meg revised their race plan executed their race as to the plan, pressurising strong opposition from Yorkshire and closed the gap to within 2.5 seconds, placing them second in the B final and eight overall

Stratford Boat Club’s WJ16 squad competed for the region in both the double scull and coxless quadruple scull categories. Lucy Sartain and Eloise Cooper rowed a well paced race to finish fourth in their double scull heat, also securing fourth position in the B final. The coxless quad crew of Esme Elfwood, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton rowed a strong heat finishing in second place to a dominant Thames Upriver boat and making the A final, ultimately claiming fifth place overall for the region

Isaac Clarkson from Stratford’s adaptive squad, competing in his first race, represented the region with distinction in the adaptive single sculls. Aged only thirteen, Isaac performed well against his three opponents who were all several years his senior. Commenting, Mark Dewdney, Head Adaptive Coach said, “Isaac showed once again that Stratford is the leading adaptive/para squad in the West Midlands”

In the final analysis, the West Midlands squad was placed fourth overall of the twelve regions, a superb result from all the athletes from the region. Commenting on the result, West Midlands Team Manager (and Stratford J17/18 Performance squad coach) Abi Terry said, “Well done to everyone in the squad! A big improvement on placing from last year and a real testament to the hard work from all the coaches!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page fifty two and Stratford Observer back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/04/28&pages=032

For more great pictures of JIRR, see Dave Parkin’s excellent selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AtAyGCrPvAupqho6bP6AymvayZMM?e=s72mPb

Stratford’s Juniors Show Promise at Junior Sculling Head

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s junior crews were back on the water this week following Schools’ Head for the second of the pinnacle events of the Head racing season – the Junior Sculling Head at Dorney Lake.

On the Olympic course at Dorney Lake the J14, J15 and J16 squads took on competition from around the UK to compete at this high profile event.  The J14 squad fielded a women’s coxless quadruple scull with Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke (coxswain) representing Stratford Boat Club. The crew stormed up the course on the first 1800m leg and held their own in the 1800m second leg to finish eighth out of forty five crews entered. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “This places the WJ14 squad amongst the top crews in the country and makes for an exciting summer regatta season ahead!”

Representing the Junior 15’s girls were Alexandra Francis, Lily Warren, Sophie Evans, Poppy Baines, Meg Nuttall (cox) competing in the WJ15 coxed quad event. This is a popular event and this year was no different: a total of seventy two crews from the UK competed in difficult conditions. The Stratford girls were drawn in the outside lane racing into a crosswind of 23mph bearing the full brunt of the strong gusts and thus the first of the two runs challenged cox and crew. Despite a strong performance the girls finished twenty fifth. Said Colin Bell, J15 Coach, “On this occasion, the results did not reflect the effort!”

A field of fifty one crews took to the water in the WJ16 coxless quad event. Seeded sixteenth, the Stratford Boat Club crew of Ez Elfwood (stroke), ‘V’ Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton (bow) settled into a strong and steady rhythm early on with Appleton dealing well with the cross winds to steer a straight line. Rowing through two other boats and with a faster second leg, the girls pulled up three places to finish thirteenth overall in a very competitive class.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty three and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-junior-scullers-show-promise-on-dorney-lake and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/03/31&pages=032

For more great pictures of the Junior Sculling Head, see Stuart Baines’ excellent selection https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AAgtRX2jqm73JFY&id=3DD8F6A70C0CB625%21250426&cid=3DD8F6A70C0CB625

Stratford’s Juniors Out In Force At West Midlands Junior Championships

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s junior squad went in force to Stourport for British Rowing’s West Midlands Junior Championships. Making their debut in rowing competition, the eight boys and four girls who make up Stratford’s J13 squad came home with at least one medal each. The J13’s rowed the 1800m downstream course cheered on at the midway point at Stourport Boat Club and showed everybody how focused and determined they are. It was smiles all-round on the day for the J13s. The gold medal time was 8 minutes and 45 seconds. J13 Coach Hugo Happel said,” I’m so proud of these boys and girls. They have great spirit, attitude, belief and are just a joy to coach. They have a terrific bond with each other and that showed again today. What a super bunch! Thanks to the parents for helping out, it is much appreciated!”

The winter head season continued at the weekend for Stratford’s J14 squad at the West Midlands Junior Championships. The event presented the opportunity for the region’s junior rowers to be selected to represent West Midlands at the Junior Inter Regional Regatta in April. As a result, the spectators lining the banks of the Severn were treated to an excellent display of rowing and sculling. First to go for the J14 squad was the girls coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Tessa Parkin and Poppy Warren (coxswain). The crew demolished the course to win the event by forty five seconds and gain West Midlands jerseys in the process. Next to go were the three J14 girls double sculls of Isla Dunn and Sophie Franklin, Martha Baines and Mille Smith and Martha Cooke and Josephine Cooper. It was a nip and tuck affair as the crews raced under Stourport Bridge with the majestic Victorian arch willing crews onwards. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “In the final analysis, the Stratford Boat Club crews were placed second, third and fifth with a cigarette paper between them: accomplished rows from all!”

The day started early in Stourport for the J16 squad at the qualifying event for the chance to represent the West Midlands at the prestigious Junior Inter-Regional Regatta. The WJ16 doubles headed down the course first, facing strong competition from high level clubs in the region. All three boats rowed elegantly, with the pairing of Nancy Davis and Jess Long coming home in fifth, Harriet Froom and Eloise Cooper in fourth and Megan Rowan and Lucy Sartain in second, meaning they qualified to represent the West Midlands. Next up was Jamie Wilcock in the J16 singles who put in a well composed performance to finish sixth in a field of tough competition. On the heels of the WJ16’s were Lily Warren and Poppy Baines in the WJ15 double and Xavier Sissins-Rofey in the single sculls events. Although not qualifying to represent the West Midlands, both crews delivered an excellent performance, bronze medals for Warren and Baines and silver for Sissins-Rofey

After a strong start in the morning, first crew down the course for division two was the WJ16 coxless quad of Ez Elfwood, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton. A clean start and some tidy sculling, they pushed on to win with a sub seven minute time, eleven seconds ahead of the home Stourport crew and well ahead of the trailing Kings School Worcester and Pengwern boats to qualify to represent West Midlands at the inter regional regatta. Following the quad was the J16 double of Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple Baker who just missed out on a podium position after delivering a skilful performance. Up next representing the J15’s was the coxed quad of Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, James Albrighton, Ollie Rowlands coxed by Meg Nuttall. Following on from their previous success at Stourport’s own head race, the J15 boys did not disappoint finishing one second against their nearest rivals and now move onto the Inter Regional Regatta. In hot pursuit was Alexandra Francis competing in the single sculls. Francis was competing against a formidable opponent from AB Severn who last year was awarded a gold medal at the British Rowing Championships. Francis finished just three seconds behind her opponent in silver medal position, a result which shows promise for the year ahead.

Finishing the day with a final singles race, Molly Vondrak, Lucy Sartain and Eloise Cooper went back out for one more run. Chasing each other, they pushed hard and finished with some strong times, Molly finishing fourth, Lucy just behind in sixth, and Eloise in eighth positions in a highly competitive field of eleven boats. Following on was the WJ15 quad with Poppy Baines, Lily Warren trying to repeat their previous placing along with Sophie Evans, Alice Jones and cox Lucy Yang. Despite every effort and up against stiff opposition the girls finished in fifth place.

Two members of the J17/18 squad also took on the familiar course at Stourport-on-Severn. Whilst they were not eligible for qualification for the Inter-Regional Regatta, Charles Happel and Toby Sartain competed in the J17 and J18 singles events respectively. Happel sculled superbly to bring home a confident win in his class, whilst Sartain also put up a good performance to finish third. In the afternoon division, they then combined to compete in the J18 doubles events, where in a field of strong crews they recorded a third place finish, rounding out a successful day.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-juniors-impress-at-west-midlands-junior-championships

For a selection of photographs see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ amazing album WMJRRC 2023

Stratford’s Juniors Show Promise at Wycliffe!

On Saturday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J17/18 squad took on the 4.5km course of the Wycliffe Big Head and the J18 quad of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Charles Happel and Toby Sartain were first to race. They set off strong and settled into a comfortable pace quickly, sculling with composure before crossing the line with a final sprint to record a time of 16:16.3 placing them a very respectable fourth place out of a field of thirteen high level boats. They were followed down the course by the WJ18 four of Kate Richardson, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Maddie Hall and Harriet Noyes and cox Imogen Hill. They also rowed well together, recording a time of 19:02.1 that outpaced a number of the usually faster WJ18 quads and came home in first place in their event.

Just one boat from Stratford Boat Club’s J16 travelled to Wycliffe to complete in the Big Head. The coxless quad of Lucy Sartain (stroke), Molly Vondrack, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton took on strong competition from AB Severn, Great Marlow School and Wallingford over the 4500m course. Showing both great technical skills and endurance, the crew settled into a good rhythm and paced the race well to set a time of 18:23, placing them in fourth place and within just twenty four seconds of the winning boat.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-juniors-show-promise-at-wycliffe and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/02/10&pages=032

Stratford’s Juniors Conquer The Severn!

On Sunday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squads went in force to Stourport Winter Head: the J17/18 squad started the day with singles’ events, which featured Will Beattie and Toby Sartain in the J18 category and Charles Happel in the J17 category. Beattie sculled to his usual high standard, finishing strongly to win the event and was followed down the course by Sartain who crossed the line in second place to round out a 1-2 finish for Stratford. Happel came next and sculled to a similar high standard also to claim second place in his event. Next up was the WJ18 pair of Amalia Richardson and Kate Richardson who, despite being relatively new to the pairs event, rowed proficiently and came home in first place. Finally, the afternoon division saw the two J18 doubles of Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock and Charles Happel and Toby Sartain take on the 4km course: Beattie and Wilcock set off first sculling typically well on their way to win the event just ahead of Happel and Sartain who also sculled confidently to complete an excellent overall performance for the squad in second place.

For Stratford’s J16 squad, the morning division saw the coxless quad of Aimee Appleton, Scarlett Richardson, Molly Vondrack with Megan Rowan in the stroke seat put on an impressive display of sculling to beat the home Stourport boat by 12.5 seconds and take first place. In the afternoon three doubles of Lucy Sartain and Jess Long, Eloise Cooper and Nancy Davis, Ez Elfwood and Harriet Froom all competed to a very high standard and finished with seven seconds of each other over the 4k course. In the end it was Elfwood and Froom who missed out on a second place by just 1 second to take 3rd with Sartain and Long 0.8sec behind them followed by Cooper and Davis. Finally, Jamie Wilcock competed in the singles event and was in the lead at the halfway stage before a collision caused him to lose time and finish second overall.

For the J14 and J15 squads, the weekend saw the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club athletes from across the age ranges compete on the Severn in the “Blackpool of the Black Country, Stourport-on-Severn”! The 4000m course running with the stream presented a good opportunity for all to display the fruits of their winter training over a longer distance. Conditions on the day were superb with a light breeze and sunshine threatening to make an appearance on occasion.

In Division One, Stratford’s J14s fielded two WJ14 double sculls combinations. The crew of Josephine Cooper and Sophie Franklin powered down the course in style to finish over a minute ahead of Avon County Rowing Club and Evesham Rowing Club. The win however was taken by Maeve Dunn and Bryony Francis by a margin of just three seconds with a superb performance. The J15 squad fielded a coxed four into the event but, without opposition in their age range, took on senior crews. The crew of  Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Roffey, Oliver Rowlands and James Albrighton (coxswain) thundered down the course to take the win in emphatic style.

In Division Two, the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Sophie Warren, Isla Dunn, Becca Smith, Martha Cooke and Josephine Cooper (coxswain) delivered a stonking row to take the win over quality opposition from Trentham Boat Club and Hereford Cathedral School.  The quadruple scull event was followed by the toughest event of the day by far, the single sculls. Testing themselves, representing Stratford were the J14 girls of Martha Baines, Tessa Parkin and Millie Smith. Dicing with strong competition from around the area, they recorded a creditable eighth, fifth and sixth respectively. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “No mean feat over the 4000m course so early in their rowing careers. No doubt, these athletes will return to the Severn in the coming years!”

Representing the J15 squad in the women’s double sculls, the powerhouse duo of Alexandra Francis and Poppy Baines provided a show for the assembled crowd with a textbook row, taking the win by a comfortable margin, In the women’s J15 coxed quadruple sculls event, the crew of Sophie Evans, Meg Nuttall, Alice Jones, Lily Warren and Lucy Yang (coxswain) delivered a solid row chasing Ross Rowing Club all the way to achieve a fourth place.

Joining their Stratford colleagues, King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club also headed to Stourport Head. First up in the morning division was the J18 4+ of T. Wilcock, R. Macdonald, T. Wheeler, T. Beard and I. Hill (cox) they were racing in the open men’s category and put in a great performance to see off crews from Warwick BC and Trentham RC to take the win.

The afternoon division saw a debut for our J16 4x of W. Dalrymple-Baker, H. Hoare, A. Mathers and M. Cullimore, three of whom only start rowing in September. Said Hannah Crone, KES Coach, “This was their first race and the aim was to row well and enjoy it: the boys put in a fantastic performance to take the win over Evesham Rowing Club.”

Next up was our WJ18 4+ of A. Richardson, T. Dunn, M. Hall, K. Richardson and I. Hill (cox) again racing in the senior category. Despite a last minute substitution due to injury, the girls had a good row and came out on top ahead of Evesham Rowing Club and Trentham Rowing Club. This topped off a great day for King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club coming home with three wins from three crews.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratfords-juniors-conquer-the-severn

For more great pictures of Stourport Winter Head, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ excellent selection at https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AOAm%5FWXXHbdtI6M&id=8E50DAC120123B06%2190130&cid=8E50DAC120123B06